Film, List, Opinion

2015 IN FILM

Looking back on an amazing year in cinema. 

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The end of the year is almost upon us – and what a year it has been for cinema. My Cineworld Unlimited card was put to good use over the past twelve months and I managed to cram in an impressive number of viewings. Whilst there have been a few disappointments along the way, there were also plenty of high points, and even a couple of masterpieces. I have compiled here my top five films of the year – no easy task – with a few honourable mentions for good measure. Let me know what your cinematic highlights were in the comments section!

TOP 5:

BROOKLYN

Director: John Crowley

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domnhall Gleeson

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It feels like every year cinema is getting bigger and as the MCU and other superhero worlds dominate the box office the human element can be left behind. Richard Linklater reminded us of the extraordinary power of the ordinary with Boyhood last year, and John Crowley has followed suit with Brooklyn – based on the novel of the same name by Colm Toíbín – adding a period setting for good measure. Brooklyn is an understated masterpiece, blending gorgeous visuals with a simple and powerful story, alleviated to near perfect status by the incredibly apt casting  – Ronan has been scooping awards for her central role, and oscar glory is well within reach come February.

On a more personal level, Brooklyn resonated with me much more than I expected it to. The film is about a girl close to my age being torn between her desire to be home with her family and to forge a new life in America, a common struggle that transcends time. Brooklyn is a welcome reminder that a film doesn’t have to have superheroes or CGI to impress.

Read my review of Brooklyn here.

ME, EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

Director: Alfronso Gomez-Rejon

Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman

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After the smash hit success of The Fault in our Stars last year, another John Green adaption was a safe bet, and sure enough Paper Towns came along this summer. The film was marketed on Cara Delevingne, who was mostly absent from the largely forgettable flick. However, the genre had some life breathed back into it by Alfronso Gomez-Rejon, who took a script from Jess Andrews (author of the book of the same name) and came up with Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, a film that avoided cliche whilst still packing an emotional punch.

I was not initially hopeful  – the marketing made the film look like a quirky Fault in our Stars rip-off – but it stood out due to its rarely static camera work and the incredibly funny script – it reminded me of 50/50 (2011) in that it manages to be a film about cancer that is funny without being crude. Add this to strong leads, a brilliant supporting turn from Nick Offerman and an incredible soundtrack (which I discussed here), and you have one of the most memorable films of the year.

LEGEND

Director: Brian Helgeland

Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccleston

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Trailer Addict

Based on The Profession of Violence by John Pearson, Brian Helgeland takes on the Krays in his biopic, which sees Tom Hardy in the dual role of Reggie and Ronnie. The gangster genre is overcrowded, so its hard to nail the genre in a way that stands out, but the Krays are hugely interesting source material and this film is worth seeing, if only for the technical wizardry of seeing Tom Hardy fight himself.

Legend is not without faults – Emily Browning’s character Frances is used as a narrative device to get to the story of the twins and is criminally underwritten as a result – but it still stands out as one of my favourite films of the year. Mixing the funny with the violent, Legend brings a distinct sense of Britishness to the gangster genre, and is all the better for it.

STEVE JOBS

Director: Danny Boyle

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels

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There is a good chance that audiences – particularly those in the US – are getting Steve Jobs fatigue. Since the Apple founder and CEO passed away in 2011 there has been a slew of material on the man, but it would be foolish to pass on this latest effort from Danny Boyle, with a script by Aaron Sorkin.

With a theatre-like three act structure, Steve Jobs is a far cry from the done -to-death biopic structure, and Sorkin’s razor sharp script blends perfectly with Boyle’s unique eye for visuals, and Fassbender manages to inhibit the character despite not physically resembling him. It’s Fassbender’s film through and through – as the title would suggest, he is the focal point of the entire film – but he is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast with Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels and Kate Winslet all providing fantastic turns in their own right.

Read my review of Steve Jobs here.

KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK 

Directed: Brett Morgen

Starring: Kurt Cobain

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Since his suicide in 1994 Kurt Cobain has been somewhat of an enigma, the voice of dissatisfied youth, and the wealth of unauthorised material produced on the man did little to dispel any of the myths that arose. However, Brett Morgen’s documentary – the first to be done with the agreement and co-operation of Cobain’s family – cuts through the cultural obsession to look at the man. Morgen stated in an interview that the film aimed to:

“….present an American icon – a revered American icon – in a completely naked and honest manner. Without tearing him down and without building him up, but where we can look him in the eye.”

Blending animated segments with interviews, Montage of Heck is a welcome departure from the typical over reliance on talking heads in documentaries, and is without a doubt the definitive account of who Cobain was. The only thing missing is an interview with Dave Grohl, as a member of Nirvana he seems like a crucial person to talk to about that period in Cobain’s life, and his presence is missed.

Whilst it is at times unsettling to see how deep-set his issues were, and knowing what happened to him makes it all the more upsetting,  Montage of Heck is essential viewing for Nirvana fans, and an enjoyable watch regardless.

RUNNER UPS:

DOPE 

Dope manages to be a crime caper, a comedy, a drama and a coming of age story all rolled into one excellent script. Rick Famuyiwa’s film tells the story of Malcom, Jib and Diggy, three geeks obsessed with 1990s culture who accidentally end up with a rucksack full of MDMA. The lead performances are fantastic and A$AP Rocky even shows up for a supporting role. The film is one that is designed to make you think about the role stereotypes continue to play in society, and it will stay with you long after the credits roll.

MISTRESS AMERICA

Director Noah Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig, who penned the script together, are at their best in Mistress America, a screwball comedy that allows Gerwig to shine. Their collaboration, which worked so well in Frances Ha (2012) has been honed to perfection here, and the film is full to  the brim with laughs, as well as raising some interesting questions about the self obsession in the age of technology.

SUFFRAGETTE 

Undoubtedly one of the most important films of the year, it’s hard to believe UK women’s  fight for the vote had not already been committed to the screen. Starring Carey Mulligan and Helena Bohem Carter, with an appearance from the ever-fantastic Meryl Streep, Suffragette is a fantastic period drama made all the more emotive by the fact that it is based on true events.

MOST PROGRESSIVE: 

SPY/MAD MAX:FURY ROAD

It would be madness not to include Mad Max: Fury Road in talks about progressive depictions in cinema, but I have not yet seen it, so alas my comments cannot extend much further than acknowledgement of what is by all accounts an incredible film.

However, I genuinely believe in years to come Paul Feig’s Spy could be looked back upon as a landmark in comedy. Spy is a sign of progress – perhaps the most notable since Bridesmaids (2011) – with women who are capable, independent and not used as the butt of jokes. The film turns everything that is so awful about James Bond on its head – here we have men that are inept, being helped along by badass women (not a damsel in distress in sight) – and it’s about time.

It seems real change is finally on the horizon, and as ridiculous as it is that it is only the case in 2015, that can only be a good thing. Misogynists need not worry too much – Spectre brought the already questionable James Bond back a few steps in the progressive stakes (read more on that here). You win some, you lose some I guess.

BIGGEST LETDOWN:

KILL YOUR FRIENDS 

Based on John Niven’s (who also penned the script) novel of the same name, Kill Your Friends had the potential to be the British American Psycho (2000), but turned out to be a hollow disappointment. Despite the best efforts of the cast, led by an appropriately stoney Nicholas Hoult, the script feels empty and you’ll be hard pressed to remember the film long after viewing.

Read my review of Kill Your Friends here.

BEST ANIMATION:

INSIDE OUT 

A true return to form for Pixar, Inside Out shows the studio do what they do best – blending beautiful animation with innovative storytelling that tackles big themes in a way that is accessible to all ages. The casting is incredibly well sourced – Phyllis Smith was born to voice sadness – and the timeless concept is one that has already solidified Inside Out as a modern animated classic.

WEIRDEST:

THE LOBSTER 

The english language debut of Greek director Yorgos Lanthinmos, The Lobster is without a doubt the most unique film of the year. A hilariously deadpan story about a hotel where single people go and if they fail to find a partner in 45 days, they a turned into an animal. The film satirises social constructs in a hilarious manner, and whilst there is no doubt that it won’t appeal to everyone, I found the film to be one of the funniest I saw all year.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Not forgetting Macbeth, Ant Man, Trainwreck, Ex Machina, The Martian, Man Up, Mr Holmes, Danny Collins, Jurassic World, Irrational Man and so many more…


 

I’ve shared this video before, but it’s so good that I’m going to share it again. Ben Zuk created a 2015 Salute to Cinema on Vimeo, incorporating 164 movies into a wonderful montage that reminds us just how great movies can be. Enjoy!

 


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/147217969″>2015 Salute to Cinema</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/benzuk”>Ben Zuk</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

What was your favourite film of 2015? Let me know in the comments section below!

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THE MISLEADING MARKETING OF MOVIES

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Since the dawn of the internet we have been living in a world where information is more widely and easily available than ever before. This has made pretty much everything more competitive, especially in the entertainment industry. It is harder than ever before to get a film made, and even if a great film is backed by a studio it will still bomb if it isn’t marketed in a way that gets people interested.

Advertising is in itself a huge business, and there are people out there who have dedicated their entire lives to working out what it is that sells things to people. It turns out that we as the human race are not an overly imaginative bunch, and mainstream cinema audiences are more likely to react to marketing that they recognise – be that a notable actor/actress or a typical narrative, marketing experts will generally gear advertising material about a film to fit certain quotas.

PicMonkey CollageThis can often lead to misleading marketing material that more often than not doesn’t actually represent the product that is being sold to us. This can work both ways, either selling an indie film as more mainstream fare (Me, Earl and the Dying Girl earlier this year was very much marketed as a YA adaption in the vein of The Fault in Our Stars in spite of being a vastly different film, for example) or tricking audiences into seeing a generic flick.

The ways in which marketing material can be misleading varies in a number of ways, but most tactics generally centralise around the ‘bait and switch’ idea where material will lure audiences in before turning out to be something totally different – this is done with actor/actresses, notable directors and trailers, as well as posters and even titles of films.

The thing is, advertising works. As much as many of us would like to believe that we are not susceptible, but with advertising being a multi-billion dollar industry the odds are stacked against us, and a lot of what makes marketing material work is the fact that it can sometimes operate on a subconscious level.

This post will look at these tactics in more detail using various examples of real life marketing material that was essentially misleading in the representation it provided of the film in question.

POSTERS:

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Posters are one of the main forms of marketing when it comes to movies – they generally set the tone and establish the stars of the film, as well as generally alluding to what the film is about. However, there are plenty of examples of times where distributors have provided movie posters which quite drastically misrepresent the film in some way.

A notable example from earlier this year was Legend, which made the headlines when it was revealed that it had strategically placed a two star review from The Guardian to look like it was a five star review. The review, from critic Benjamin Lee, was decidedly less than complementary about the Tom Hardy starring gangster biopic, yet the way the stars had been placed in the poster made it look like it was yet another excellent review of the film, leading to Lee himself writing an article about the dangers of misleading advertising. He pointed out that this was far from a one off, and the practice of taking critics quotes or ratings out of context and placing them in marketing material is a surprisingly common.

Other examples of posters which were essentially misleading include one of the US posters for The Aviator (2004) which tries to entice fans of Saving Private Ryan type films by taking an action still completely out of context, or the Spanish poster for The Godfather (1972), which was based on an early draft of the script which involved a spaghetti restaurant and just ends up coming across as promoting stereotypes.

Here are some of more examples of misleading movie posters…

  • PicMonkey CollageKramer . Vs. Kramer (1979) – shows a happy family even though the film is the depiction of the breaking up of said family
  • Drugstore Cowboy (1989) – selling a movie about drug addicts is always going to be hard, but the main characters on the poster are much chirpier than they appear in the film.
  • My Sister’s Keeper (2009) – Much like Drugstore Cowboy, marketing a movie about cancer is difficult, but this poster contains a lot more smiling than we ever see in this tearjerker

TITLES:

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It goes without saying that a movie title is one of the most important elements, as it tends to be a consumers first point of contact with the product. A poor or bland title is unlikely to entice audiences, and sometimes quirky or unusual trailers can be used for generic films, or vice versa. Titles differ from other marketing materials in that they are often taken from other mediums – for example, if a film is based on a book the title will often be retained.

However, there are examples of films based on books where the title was changed, presumably as part of the marketing strategy. This would include the likes of Slumdog Millionaire (2009), which was based on Q&A by Vikas Swarup. From a marketing perspective the name change is quite obvious – the idea of a slumgod millionaire is much more evocative than a Q&A session, and it immediately gives the consumer a bigger insight into what the film is about.

Love, Rosie (2014) is based on Irish author Cecilia Aherne’s second novel, entitled Where Rainbows End (2004) and is another example of a title change, with the movie title nodding more towards rom-com material.

trainspottingFilms such as Trainspotting (1994) retained their book titles, but no longer make sense in the context of the film. The book contains a line which alludes to the act of trainspotting and also acts as character development for the pyschotic Begbie, who was immortalised on screen by Robert Carlyle. However slight this alluding to the title was, it was still present, and no such instance occurs in the film, essentially making the title obsolete. This did nothing to impact the overall quality of the movie however, and it was going to be a hard task for the marketing strategists to come up with a title for a film about Edinburgh based heroin addicts and sociopaths.

Film titles can also change from country to country, the most famous recent example being the Avengers/Avengers Assemble instance in 2012. The culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was markered in the US as The Avengers, whilst in the UK it was distributed as The Avengers Assemble. This was done due to the existence of a TV show titled in The Avengers in the UK, making it crystal clear to audiences that they were not the same thing.

Other examples of differences between the US/UK movie titles include…

  • Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_postersHarold and Kumar go to White Castle (US) became Harold and Kumar get the Munchies (UK) due to the lack of White Castle fast food chain in the UK.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (UK) became Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (US) – there is much debate as to why this was the case, but it is generally deemed to be because the idea of a sorcerer was one that implied ‘magical’ more than philosophers in to the US market.
  • Dracula 2000 (US) was changed to Dracula 2001 internationally due to the fact that it was released the year after. Apparently audiences wouldn’t buy that a film about Dracula was set a year in the past.

Whilst these title changes are not misleading in themselves, it shows how important titles are as part of the overall marketing strategy, with distributors being willing to actually change a title if they feel it will sell a movie better.

More examples of titles that are misleading…

  • The Squid and the Whale (2005) – It’s not about a squid, or a whale, though dioramas of both are seen in the film at the American Museum of Natural History. Does this count?
  • Antichrist (2009) – Whilst it may sound like your run of the mill horror/possession/exorcism movie, its actually part of Lars Von Trier’s overly depressing depression trilogy.
  • 12 Monkeys (1995) – It’s not about 12 monkeys, ok?

STARS:

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The old bait and switch is one of the oldest tricks in the book – marketing a film with a well known star at the forefront of all the material, only for them to hardly appear in the film itself, which people will only find out once they have already paid to see it. It’s a concept thats still around because it works, and despite social media making it easier and easier for audiences to deduce what is going on before a film comes out, we are still being collectively duped more than you would think.

Just this year the marketing material for Suffragette (2015) had us all thinking that Meryl Streep was in the main cast as the notable real life campaigner Emmeline Pankhurst. She featured heavily in all the material including trailers and posters, but turned out to only be in the film for a grand total of about five minutes. There was no reason to believe that Streep had anything less than a leading role, but it turned out that Cary Mulligan was the lead, with Helena Bohem Carter appearing in a supporting capacity. Streep was really no more than a cameo, making her appearance in the marketing material extremely misleading. It’s clear why this was the strategy however – Streep is one of the most famous and successful actresses of all time, and whilst Bohem Carter and Mulligan are both respected they in no way carry the level of traction that Streep does. Featuring her heavily in the marketing was also a clever move in enaging with US audiences, who will recognise her much more than the British Mulligan and Bohem Carter.

One of the first notable uses of the bait and switch of a star was in Alfred Hitchcock’s Pyscho (1960), which was marketed with Janet Leigh as the lead. She is then killed off in the first half an hour of the film, a feat that was famously repeated by Wes Craven with Drew Barrymore in Scream (1996). Both films were hugely successful – arguably partly due to the marketing of famous actresses Leigh and Barrymore as respective leads.

Other examples of this in practice include…

  • 273894_oriLeprechaun (1993) – The DVD release of this horror film capitalised on the fact that Jennifer Aniston, who has a relatively minor role in the movie, had struck gold as Rachel Green on Friends (1994-2004), and she is featured on the cover design.
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) – Sean Penn is implied as the lead but it actually just part of a larger ensemble cast.
  • Halloween: Resurrection (2002) – Marketed almost wholly on the grand return of Jamie Lee Curtis, who is then killed off in the first half.
  • The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) – Marketed on Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper’s names, completely leaving out the other half which focuses on their sons, played by the then lesser known Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen respectively.

DIRECTORS:

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This is a trend that is slightly less obvious, but is still prevalent across Hollywood marketing material. Once a director has made a name for themselves, sticking their name on a poster or in a trailer is a surefire way of convincing people that a movie is worth seeing. The thing is, advertising will tend to stick a directors name on it even if their involvement with the film was not in a very large capacity, as it is easier to sell a picture on their name than that of a newbie or a less established film-maker.

Guillermo del Toro is a director that has had his name attached to several films, to the point that he actually spoke about it in an interview, saying:

“I only do it when – (a) I am introducing a filmmaker to the world, but (b) I endorse and say I believe in this movie very, very strongly. For whatever reason, it’s a more risky proposition in one way, but it’s one that I believe needs to continue to support first-time filmmakers. . . . I only do it when I fully believe I was involved in the product in a way that is meaningful.” 

del Toro was attached to Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2013), which was directed by Troy Nixey and The Orphanage (2007), directed by J . A Bayona. Regardless of the reasons why a director may choose to allow their name to be attached to a film, there is no doubt that it is both an effective and misleading marketing tactic. Audiences are going to see something based on the fact that they know and like the work of the director appearing on the poster, which can sometimes lead to them seeing a rubbish movie bolstered by the name, or give an up and coming film-maker a chance by viewing it, albeit under false pretences.

Other examples include…

  • The_nightmare_before_christmas_posterNightmare Before Christmas (1993) – Generally marketed as Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. Whilst the king of kook is responsible for the concept and is credited as a producer, the film was actually directed by Henry Selik.
  • Hostel (2005) – Splat pack director Eli Roth’s super violent torture horror film had Quentin Tarantino serve as an executive producer, and it was his name that the film was marketed on in spite of the fact Roth both wrote and directed the film.
  • Sanctum (2011) – Advertised as coming from executive producer James Cameron ‘the creator of Avatar and Titanic’, the way it is written on the poster makes the words James Cameron, Titanic and Avatar the ones that stand out. Considering they are two of the most financially successful films of all time, it is little wonder that is the slant the marketing took, in spite of the film being directed by Alister Grierson, who has no such accolades on his CV.

TRAILERS:

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Trailers are increasingly becoming the most important part of the marketing of a movie, providing without a doubt the biggest insight into what the film is going to be about. However, like everything else that has been explored in this post, they can be edited in a way that totally misrepresents the narrative and overall tone of a film.

The films of Nicolas Winding Refn are notable for being marketed in ways that do not fully represent the final product. Three examples are Valhalla Rising (2009), Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013). Valhalla Rising’s entire marketing campaign piggy-backed on the success of Zack Snyder’s 300 (2006), right down to the DVD cover and posters. However, the film is actually a deep study of a norse warrior. Drive is a neo-noir crime thriller that was marketed as a Fast and Furious style caper, whereas the final product is something much darker and broodier. Only God Forgives was advertised as a marital arts flick, but again was a thriller where marital arts was only a component factor. The marketing of these films, along with the fact that the very bankable Ryan Gosling (who is also featured heavily in the advertising) starred in the latter two allows them to be accessible to mainstream audiences in a way that they may not have without these elements.

Some other examples of misleading trailers include…

  • 126166377_iron-man_406735cIron Man 3 (2013) – the one that left comic book villains the world over bitter, the trailer advertised famous Iron Man foe The Mandarin as the big bad, only to pull a bait and switch and reveal Ben Kingsley’s character to be an drunken actor.
  • Magic Mike (2012) – Steven Soderbergh’s film was a deep character study marketed as a flashy chick-flick based around male strippers.
  • The Grey (2011) – capitalised on the Liam Neeson as an action lead phenomenon that began with 2009’s Taken, but The Grey was actually a study of the human relationship with death that is surprisingly light on the action.
  • Cabin in the Woods (2011) – marketed as a run of the mill teen slasher flick, but Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods takes the idea of meta-horror to a level that makes Scream (1996) look as though it lacks self-awareness.

Which films do you think had misleading marketing campaigns? Let me know in the comments section!

 

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OSCARS 2016: ACTING NOMINEE PREDICTIONS:

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The Oscar race is well and truly underway, and movie fans are now being treated to some of the best that cinema has to offer between now and February 28th next year. The acting nominations are among the big hitters in terms of Academy Awards, and the Academy are going to have some extremely tough decisions on their hands next year in that area. Bearing in mind that the I have not seen a great deal of these films, I have compiled my current predictions for who will be nominated in the four big acting categories – Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.

BEST ACTOR:

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THE FIVE:

  • Johnny Depp, Black Mass
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
  • Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies

WILDCARDS:

  • Tom Hardy, Legend
  • Ian McKellan, Mr. Holmes

This is an extremely strong category this year, and certainly the category that everyone will be talking about. The Academy are a big fan of a truse story, and this is very much looking like its going to be the main trend in the Best Actor nominations this year. Johnny Depp is already making waves for his performance of real-life gangster Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, which is out on Friday here in the UK. Depp has been accused with going for quirk over content in the past few years, and this has been lauded as a real return to form. Even just looking at the trailer, it is clearly a totally transformative role, and whilst the gangster genre is a hard one to nail I don’t think there are going to be many criticisms of Depp’s performance, making him a real contender for Best Actor.

Eddie Redmayne won in this category last year for his excellent turn as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, which was above all a real feat in physical acting. It could be two in a row for the British actor with Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl seeing him take on the role of Lile Elbe, the first ever person to undertake gender reassignment surgery. This film has the Academy written all over it, and Redmayne stands a real chance at becoming only the third actor (after Spencer Tracy and Tom Hanks) to bring home the statue two years in a row.

Leonardo-DiCaprio-Oscar-2014Leonardo DiCaprio is being heavily tipped to finally get his Oscar with The Revenant. Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the man behind last year’s Acadamy success story Birdman, the film tells the story of Hugh Glass, a man who survived being mauled by a bear in 1820’s Dakota Territory. The film is already expected to be a technical masterpiece, but will it also bring DiCaprio his fifth nomination? You have to root for him really, if they don’t give him an award soon they are going to end up giving him one for a mediocre film in years to come when they finally realise he was overlooked (a la Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman). The downside of a DiCaprio win? There won’t be anymore of those hilarious GIFs spreading across the internet (sorry Leo).

Steve Jobs wasn’t as much of a commercial success in the US as expected, but this shouldn’t affect Michael Fassbender’s chances of nabbing a nomination as the Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs in Danny Boyle’s film of the same name. What he lacked in physical resemblance he more than made up for in nailing the complexity of Jobs’ character in a real warts-and-all fashion. He probably won’t win, but a nomination is surely on the horizon.

I am yet to see Bridge of Spies, but there is pretty much no doubt in anyone’s mind that: a) it will be great; b) it will be nominated for a lot of awards. It has some of the best talent in Hollywood behind it after all, with Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair, the Cohen Brothers with writing credits, and Tom Hanks in the lead role.  If that’s not a recipe for awards gold I don’t know what is, and I think Hanks is all but guaranteed a nomination. He has been nominated five times before, winning twice in the early 90’s for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, and Bridge of Spies ticks a lot of Academy friendly boxes, but with such a strong Best Actor category this year anything could happen.

PicMonkey CollageDue to such a strong category, there are a few performances that have an outside chance of getting a nomination. I haven’t totally ruled out Matt Damon in The Martian – a great performance from a very popular actor. The Academy does appear to take commercial success into account in some cases – could we see Damon toppling Fassbender if they base it on the Box Office?  Tom Hardy in Legend could be in with an outside chance, though it would seem the odds may be stacked against his heavyweight performance. Hardy took on the double role of the Kray twins, but I think if it came to an Academy nomination his more restrained turn as Reggie could be in with a chance. Legend is another example of the busy and difficult gangster genre, and its very distinct sense of Britishness could see it remain on the outskirts come the Oscars. Sir Ian McKellan also delivered an excellent performance as an ageing Sherlock Holmes in Mr.Holmes, though the films early release date and understated nature could see it getting overlooked in a very flashy category.

BEST ACTRESS:

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THE FIVE:

  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  • Saorise Ronan, Brooklyn
  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Carey Mulligan, Suffragette
  • Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van

WILDCARDS:

  • Meryl Streep, Ricki and the Flash
  • Melissa McCarthy, Spy

Best Actress is a great category this year, with a range of excellent performances to choose from. Jennifer Lawrence has just become the highest paid actress in the world, and she has also been nominated two years in a row, winning in 2014 for Silver Lining’s Playbook, and her hot streak looks set to continue with her latest Oscar effort, Joy. Joy sees her reunite for a third time with director David O Russell to chart the life of Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop. The film isn’t out yet but Lawrence is almost guaranteed to make it a hat trick with a third nomination.

Brooklyn has been receiving excellent reviews, with the majority of the praise being aimed at the performance of Saoirse Ronan, who plays the lead role of an Irish girl who emigrates to America. The film is an understated masterpiece, and Ronan deserves all the praise she can get for her work, making this nomination another pretty safe bet. The Irish actress was nominated in the supporting actress back in 2007 for Atonement, aged just 13 at the time, and her transition into adult roles is awards-worthy indeed.

Cate Blanchett is one of those actresses that is so consistently good that it is almost taken for granted. She is being heavily tipped for a nomination for her role as the titular Carol, in the film based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel. She is already a six time nominee and two time winner – winning in the Supporting Actress category for The Aviator in 2004, and bagging Best Actress for her sensational turn in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine in 2013. Carol is out in the UK on Friday, but Blanchett’s impressive CV already suggest that she will be a main contender come February.

Suffragette is the kind of film I’m surprised hasn’t been made before now – a look at the struggle in the UK as women fought for the vote. It featured an excellent cast, including Helena Bohem Carter and Meryl Streep (in hardly more than a cameo, granted), but at the heart of it all was Carey Mulligan, who plays a young working class wife and mother that gets swept up by the cause.  It’s going to be a tough category this year, but I think Mulligan has a real chance at being nominated in this undeniably important film.

The Academy, or perhaps Hollywood as a whole, can be a real ageist old bunch, but I still think that Dame Maggie Smith is a real contender this year for her fantastic turn in The Lady in the Van. It’s like Suffragette in that it’s all very British, but it has a charm that will still be felt across the pond. This isn’t as strong a contender as the others, but that is not down to the acting in any way. Smith is tremendous, bringing her huge talent and underrated comic timing to the fore.

PicMonkey Collage5This is another extremely strong category, but it has been an big year for strong female performances and there are a few excellent ones that might nab an unexpected nomination. Ricki and the Flash was a really bad movie, but the Academy (along with the world) love its star, Meryl Streep (NINETEEN nominations, more than anyone else ever), and she has been nominated for less than stellar films before with August: Osage County, so don’t count her out of the running just yet. The Academy has never been particularly rewarding of comedy, so it would be a surprise to see the nonetheless deserving Melissa McCarthy or Amy Schumer bag nominations for Spy and Trainwreck respectively. Never say never though – McCarthy in particular is becoming a real Hollywood success story, and Spy was a fantastic revamp of both the dated spy format and spoof genre, so a surprise nomination is not totally out of the question. She was also nominated in the Supporting Actress category for her equally hilarious turn in 2011’s Bridesmaids, showing that even the Academy can’t turn its nose up at truly excellent comedy.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

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THE FIVE:

  • Rooney Mara, Carol
  • Alicia Vinakaner, The Danish Girl
  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
  • Marion Cotillard, Macbeth
  • Jane Fonda, Youth

WILDCARDS:

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
  • Julie Walter, Brooklyn

PicMonkey Collage6Rooney Mara is making real waves for her performance in Carol alongside Cate Blanchett. With Blanchett being the stalwart that she is, it is no small praise that Mara apparently matches the leads talent in the film about a love between two women. She was nominated in the Best Actress category in 2011 for David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but lost out to Natalie Portman in Black Swan. This could be Mara’s year, with Carol receiving critical adoration that looks set to carry the film through to a successful awards season.

This post has already detailed the fact that The Danish Girl is serious awards bait, and Alicia Vinakaner looks set to be a real contender in the Supporting Actress category. She plays the wife of Eddie Redmayne’s character and it is sure to be a very engaging and complex role. It’s the type of thing that the Academy eats up and a non-nomination for Vinakaner would be a shocking game changer.

Kate Winslet looks like the only other chance Steve Jobs’ has in terms of acting nominations. Whilst the film boasts excellent performances from the likes of Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels, they are arguably not prominent enough to be real contenders in the Supporting Actor category. Winslet is on excellent form as Jobs’ assistant and confidant Joanna Hoffman, providing a voice of reason to the visionaries tunnel vision. No stranger to the Academy – in 2008 she won Best Actress for The Reader, and in the process became the youngest actress to receive six nominations (aged 33), and it is looking relatively likely that she will bring it up to seven next year.

Macbeth was a stunning film. The refusal to deviate from the original Shakespearian script did of course make it quite hard to follow, but it still received significant attention from critics, and rightly so. French actress Marion Cotillard was an excellent Lady Macbeth, matching Michael Fassbender’s performance as the murderous king to a tee. Fassbender was excellent as Macbeth but his nomination for Steve Jobs is a much surer bet, and it is difficult to decide if Cotillard would fall into lead or supporting role. I think it is more likely that, if nominated, it will be in Supporting Actress. This one is 50/50 however, as there is a good chance that her excellent performance may go overlooked.

I haven’t seen Youth, the drama starring British acting legend Michael Caine, but I have heard nothing but good things. One of the main points of praise has been Jane Fonda’s supporting role, and I think there is a fair chance that she, an American legend herself, could be appearing on the list of nominees. She has been nominated seven times before, winning twice in the 1970’s, and it would be great to see her make a return to the Academy with her first nomination since 1986.

Supporting roles are a harder category to define in general, and it is therefore harder to pinpoint who might be heading for nomination – a role too big and it might not make the supporting category but also be too small for the main award, too small and it can’t justify a nomination. I believe (and hope) that Julie Walters may still be in with a chance for her small role in Brooklyn, where she provided the film with a whole lot of heart and some sweet comic relief. However, it does run the significant risk of being too small of a role, so I won’t be holding my breath over this one too much. Jennifer Jason Leigh could make a surprise nomination for her role in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming western, The Hateful Eight. She is the only woman amidst the titular eight, and with a crowded primary cast it is still yet to be seen how prominent of a role she will really play, so this one is still very much up in the air. It’s also worth noting that the Academy have been proven to be uncomfortable with Tarantino’s particular brand of gloriously violent film-making, with his 1994 masterpiece Pulp Fiction failing to win Best Picture, which doesn’t bode well for Jason Leigh bagging a nomination.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

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THE FIVE:

  • Tom Hardy, The Revenant
  • Robert DeNiro, Joy
  • Bradley Cooper, Joy
  • Benicio Del Toro, Sicario
  • Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

WILDCARDS:

  • Joel Edgerton, Black Mass
  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Tom Hardy is in with much more of a chance at a supporting nomination for his role in The Revenant. Hardy is known for his massive commitment to his roles, and it is sure to payoff in a film of such intense nature.

David O Russell really loves the Jennifer Lawrence/Robert DeNiro/Bradley Cooper trio, and the Academy seems to also. Both DeNiro and Cooper are set to appear in Joy, and if the past is anything to go by they are probably both in with a pretty decent chance of nomination. DeNiro is a Hollywood heavyweight, having appeared in some of the best films ever made, and now has the sort of untouchable appeal that is also held by the likes of Meryl Streep, whilst Cooper has been nominated the past three years in a row and, like Lawrence, is on a hot streak that is showing no signs of ending anytime soon.

Benicio Del Toro has received high praise for his role in the tense cartel thriller Sicario, and it looks like he may bag himself a nomination. He won an Oscar back in 2000 for his role in Traffic, which was also a crime thriller, and the genre seems to be the actors forte.

Spotlight recieved a limited release in the US earlier this month and has already been met with critical acclaim. It has an ensemble cast with no clear lead, but Mark Ruffalo has been singled out by several critics as one of the films many highlights. Ruffalo has been nominated twice before, and also just seems like such a nice guy that I think he has pretty strong chances.

PicMonkey Collage7It’s a hard one to call, but Joel Edgerton may be in with a chance for his role in Black Mass. The actor has made an impression this year with his directorial debut in The Gift, where he also showcased his impressive acting prowess. Whether he will manage a nomination from what the trailers are making to look like very much Depp’s film is yet to be seen. Spotlight is also getting a great deal of attention, and Michael Keaton may get a nomination in his role after missing out on Best Actor to Eddie Redmayne last year. He was nominated for his spectacular lead in Birdman, so could he get a consolation supporting nomination this year? The Rocky franchise, which was put to bed in 2006 with Rocky Balboa, is being passed over to Michael Jordan with Creed, which will see Sylvester Stallone once again return to his iconic role as the now ageing boxer. It’s yet to be released in the UK, and seems unlikely to be awards bait, but the trailers are suggesting a potentially upsetting ‘Rocky’s sick’ storyline which may bring Stallone into unexpectedly the running with an outside chance.

So there you have it, my predictions for the 2016 acting nominees! Here is a playlist with all of the trailers that have been mentioned in the prediction lists, check them out and let me know what you think in the comments section!:

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